National Union marks Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job

The National Union says that more needs to be done to make workplaces safer.  More employers need to be held responsible for the results of their negligence.  

Ottawa (28 Apr. 2014) — Once again the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is participating in the April 28 annual International Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job.

Across Canada, and around the world, workers participate in April 28 memorial services as a way to mourn the dead and to renew their calls for more action to prevent workplace deaths.  In Canada, approximately 1,000 workers die each year on the job or from work-related illnesses.

Most deaths and injuries are preventable

The majority of workplace deaths and injuries are preventable: they should not happen!  Far too often the necessary safety measures are not implemented by employers.  This negligence can lead to tragedy.

More needs to be done to make workplaces safer.  We must pressure employeds to address unsafe materials and practices in workplaces.  

There is also a growing need to hold employers responsible for the tragic results of their negligence.  

Pressure to change Criminal Code

Following Nova Scotia's tragic Westray mine disaster, when 26 workers lost their lives in an explosion, laws were enacted to provide for the criminal prosecution of employer negligence that leads to a workplace death and injury.

The law was won as a result of the grassroots efforts of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and all its affiliated unions.  The Westray Bill was passed into law in 2003, amending the Criminal Code to allow for prosecution of employers in workplace deaths and injuries that result from negligence. 

Since then only two provinces have laid charges under the Criminal Code.  Without the threat of prosecution, the law does not have a deterrent effect on negligent employers. Law enforcement officers must enforce the Criminal Code and investigate workplace deaths. When negligence is uncovered, the Crown must lay criminal charges.

New approach

This year the CLC is advocating a new approach in the fight against workplace deaths and injuries. 

The CLC will be assisting labour councils across Canada in going directly to police and Crown prosecutors to explain to them how the Criminal Code provisions work and how they can use it then to investigate deaths and serious injuries in the workplace.  Labour councils will have the tools to be vigilant in calling for criminal investigations by law enforcement.

The Congress has produced a new guide for workers and unions called “Death & Injury at Work”  outlines the steps unions can take to ensure a proper investigation is conducted, and how to document health and safety issues in the workplace in ways that will help with any criminal prosecution.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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